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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Purpose of Existence

Existence is a funny thing. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it allows us to have consciousness, something what we couldn’t have without existence, and it allows us, through this consciousness to experience the reality of the world around us, tempered by our language, thoughts, emotions, and intuitive connections. On the other hand, reality traps us by the very things that set us free: we are restricted by the filtering screen of our language which structures out thoughts (thank Jacques Lacan for this one), and by our own physical bodies which currently provide out only way to experience existence. We are also trapped, by our existence, in the reality of our cosmos, and we are unable to escape from it. Who knows if Hell exists or not, and if it does, we are at the mercy of the universe. The universe can cause us great pain, and we can’t ever know while we are alive if there is any escape. The universe might not even be real, in the sense that we would conceive of it being real (and would it all be real if we couldn’t perceive it?).

So, existence is a blessing and a curse (being a pessimist, I generally view it as more of a curse, but I definitely see the upsides…). But no matter what we think of it, we are all stuck existing (for those of us who do exist, anyway), so we might as well make the best of it. But what exactly is making the best of existence? In essence, why are we here? Why do we exist?

Do we exist to be happy? Maybe, but would not many people be happier if they didn’t exist? More people on this planet are miserable than those who are happy. If happiness is the purpose of existence, we’re doing a miserable job at it.

So then, maybe we exist to bring happiness to others? This statement implies that, on some level, happiness is the purpose of existence. We have also done a really bad job as a species of fulfilling this, as well. And if happiness – whether giving or receiving – is the purpose of existence, what does the universe have to gain from it?

Is existence, then, an accident? Are we meant to exist at all? How long will we continue to exist? Does our existence matter?

I would argue that there is a purpose to existence. If you follow my EsoTarot blog, it may become clear to you that I am a pantheist (A Universalist Qabalistic Druidic Pantheist, to be more precise). I believe that the universe is itself at least semi-conscious, and so that it had some purpose – whether it knew it or not – that we were being created. And so it – or the subconscious forces driving the mind of the universe – created our existence and our consciousness.

And why? Perhaps my vocation biases me, but I believe that the purpose of our existence is to create. That is one thing we do well. We also destroy very well, but sometimes (not always, mind you, but sometimes) the very act of destruction  is what begots creation.

Humanity has created many, many things, and creation is the driving force behind society. We created civilization. We created the concept and practice of agriculture. We built cities. We built boats. We built empires. We (unfortunately) built nations. We built barriers to separate us from them. We painted pictures. We wrote works of literature. We built rockets. We created poetry. We sang songs, we played music, we performed and wrote plays. In factories, we have created cars, knick-knacks, appliances, and the other trappings of capitalist civilization. Even the factories are things that we built.

So then, what has the whole of human history been revolving around? The act of creation. What is the purpose of life other than to create? We create happiness. We create joy. We create sadness. Without creation, our lives are hollow. Even our children are creations, shaped as they are by those who raised them. We were meant to fill the universe – our creator, and the energy, will, and spirit that surrounds us all – with meaning by performing our own acts of creation.

And that is why I write.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Philosophical Musings

 

#WriteMotivation!

So, I’ve had a bad week, month, day, life, whatever you want to call it. My writing has ground to a standstill for various reasons (university being one of them), and I want to kickstart it into gear again! As such, I am trying out K. T. Hanna’s #writemotivation (see this page for more details)! Essentially, as far as I understand it, a group of like-minded writers are gathering together on the interblogoworldwidenetosphere to encourage each other to meet personal, reasonable, self-set goals, using Twitter and blog posts. A simple yet brilliant concept, and actually much like National Novel Writing Month (which I am an avid devotee of/Municipal Liaison for), except personalized, with a different community, and far less stressful!

My personal goal for the month of March – when I shall be participating – is to finish my short story “The Woodsman,” and then write 8,000 words a week in my novel Tal’kan, for a total of at least 32,000 words written in it this month! That should give me a push to come closer to finishing it (it currently sits at 30,000 words; I hope to more than double that!).

So, let’s see how this goes! Good luck everyone participating, and I hope you’ll wish me luck too!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Personal, Writing

 

I, Cthulhu

Hey everyone! Just a short pointer towards a story I think everyone would enjoy – Neil Gaiman writing about Cthulhu. What’s not to love? The Cthulhu Mythos from Cthulhu’s point of view.

I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9’ S, Longitude 126° 43’ W)?

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Readings

 

A Brief Reflection on My Writing Thus Far

As I am preparing for the release of The Libel of Blood in the near future, I have been thinking about how my writing has evolved over time to get me to the point I am at now. I believe that I have improved quite a bit since setting out on my journey.

I started out writing Fan Fiction in the Warhammer universe, and while on the forums I frequented it was lauded as good, it was contrived, formulaic, and serial, lacking any real substance and very limited continuity. However, the writing itself got better and better, until I think the year before I went to university it got rather good.

Then university came, and I decided to start writing in my own universes. I began with the first few chapters of Final Judgment, a book that will not be released for a long time. This book stars the shivvos, and marks the end of the Juxian Mythos universe. I shelved this project when I learned of NaNoWriMo, and decided to instead write a novel in a month.

And thus was born The Loneliness of Stars. It was written in a month, with another month of editing, and a second edition released a while after that. It was originally filled with typos (most of which – but not all of which – were cleared out in the second edition), and had very contrived plot sequences and caricatured characters. I went out of my way to create plot twists, and as my editor commented, you could practically hear me saying “and then suddenly surprise!” in my head. Many twists and turns seem contrived – at least to me – and most of the characters lack depth (main character aside). Many of the characters, despite being on a ship, don’t wear uniforms and instead wear ridiculous outfits reflecting their caricature. What was I thinking (fortunately, in subsequent books uniforms are more prevalent.)? It was also my first ever foray into the first-person, and I did it for an entire novel. It was an interesting experiment.

Still, despite these things – and the semi-directionless plot of the novel – the mechanics of the writing were good and I have been told it was an enjoyable read. Not bad for a first novel.

I originally had intended The Loneliness of Stars to be a one-off book, set in its own universe. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to tie up the plot-line effectively in one novel, and so in the middle of writing it decided not only to make it part of the universe of Final Judgment, but to extend it into multiple books. A trilogy, no less.

And so The Light of Civilization was born. This book was written over many months, and you can actually watch my writing improve as the book goes on. It picks up immediately where the first book leaves off, and serves as a grand introduction to the Juxian Mythos; it’s essentially a guided tour of the universe. It has a lot of infodumps in it, but the plot twists no longer seem contrived, the characters are much deeper, and the world much more developed. The Light of Civilization is much more well-written and executed, and I have heard it is more enjoyable than the first. I planned out more of the arc of The Light of Civilization than I had for The Loneliness of Stars, and I think it showed.

My horror short-story writing began while I was writing my second novel, and I believe that the writing skills I learned while writing these (characters, suspense, sentence structure awesomeness, and how to evoke feelings of horror) manifested themselves in The Light of Civilization (particularly in the scene with the Cult of the Final Apocalypse). I also was able to create a more effective monster in the form of Psy. The horror stories I also think are my best work; “The Winds of Madness” is my personal favorite of everything I’ve ever written.

The Libel of Blood is even better than the first two. It’s paced like a horror novel and is very back-heavy, but at this point I think I have managed to master the plot twist, so that it can come across without seeming contrived, and at the same time my character development skills have grown even greater (Roland van der Tyke, the villain of this book, is an example of a character who benefited from this improvement). I was able to find ways to avoid the infodumps in The Light of Civilization, and created an intricate and detailed world in this book. The pacing may seem a bit odd, and it is very back-heavy, but the structure is able to keep you reading until the huge climax at the end. This story was greatly influenced by my horror.

So, the point of this? I’ve gotten better. A lot better. If you read my three current novels, you will see the difference – and I hope you do consider picking them up and reading them.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Philosophical Musings, Writing

 

Revive

I just finished horror author Thomas James Brown’s latest novel, Revive, a zombie novel with an interesting twist. After finishing the entire work, I think a more accurate classification would be a coffee shop novel with zombies. The heart of the story is, I would argue, made of three characters: Tammy Becks, a young adult struggling to keep her sick mother and rambunctious younger brothers fed through her job at the eponymous coffee shop; Phil, an ex-construction worker trying to keep his only family alive by working as a mall Santa and a regular frequenter of the coffee shop Revive, and the coffee shop itself. The zombies, to me, seem like a secondary element meant to demonstrate certain things about the above three mentioned characters.

This is not to in any way degrade the structure of the novel or the portrayal of the zombies; it was all masterfully done, and presented zombies in an entirely unique and different, fascinating light. I was pleasantly surprised at the logic behind the zombies; Mr. Brown clearly demonstrated his creativity in thinking them up.

As with his previous novel, Hell’s Water, Thomas Brown’s latest work showcases his character development skills. Every single character that appears in Revive is well-thought out; there are no caricatures, and every character adds something to the story that no one else does. Even the peripheral characters, such as the guests in the coffee shop, really come to life, and you can feel their pain as the horror unfolds. The character development that goes on with regards to Tammy Becks is phenomenal, and Phil’s is almost as good. In Phil’s case, I wish that Mr. Brown had spent more time on the character’s past, though even without that, he was still a very well-done character.

I don’t want to say too too much more in order to avoid spoiling the plot, but if you’re reading and expecting zombies from page one, think again. This is not a zombie apocalypse novel; it is a horror novel. It is paced like a horror novel; a lot of suspense (and, unusually for horror, character development) fills the first three-quarters of the book. The ending seemed a little bit rushed, and I think the novel could have benefited from expanding the last thirty or so pages into a longer sequence in order to more fully explain the events behind what happened at the coffee shop; as it was, it took a re-reading to catch some details.

Overall, Revive was a very, very, very enjoyable read, and extremely difficult to put down. Mr. Brown manages to draw you into the novel very quickly, and you feel for Tammy, Phil, and everyone else as if they were your own friends. He inserts just the right amount of humour to contrast with the horror, and effectively uses the zombies to illustrate human nature. And the twist at the end left me horrified, shocked, appalled, and applauding Mr. Brown’s cleverness – all good things in the horror genre.

If you have the time and money, definitely consider picking up a copy here.

Visit Thomas James Brown’s site here.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Readings

 

Battlestar Galactica

I just finished this highly-acclaimed science fiction soap opera. I entered it originally with the mindset of comparing it to Babylon 5, which definitely colored my perceptions of it at first, but in the end I stopped doing so, and let it stand on its own.

It didn’t stand for very long.

Funnily enough, I enjoyed the show most when I was comparing it to Babylon 5. The show started off very, very strong, especially with the opening miniseries, and then very quickly started to fall apart. It picked up again in the third season opening miniseries, and then just as quickly fell down again.

The main problem I had with the show was a lack of cohesiveness and direction. I think this show suffered from having too many writers. It was trying to have a four-season story arc, but after season 2, it kind of stopped being completely coherent, and every episode pulled me in a different direction, both plot and character-wise. This had the result of quite a few deus ex machinas in there; the existence of the “Colony” really irked me. Suddenly, amazing superpowerful Cylon base. And they never mentioned this before why, exactly? And then the whole religion and prophecy as a plot device  tendency got irritating very quickly.

It was an incredibly frustrating show to watch, as it had so much potential and wasted it every time. I never liked any of the characters except Dr. Cottle and Romo Lambkin. Whenever I did start to like a character, they would so something that made me hate them again. This made it very hard to keep coming back and watching.

Despite all of these drawbacks, though, it had some good parts. The acting was phenomenal. The characters were sometimes deep, and sometimes shallow; it really varied, and like I said before, each episode sometimes changed the character so much they were hardly recognizable. The special effects were also good, and some of the questions it brought up were also very good.

In the end, however, I did not enjoy it. The world and background appeared underdeveloped, the plot flew all over the place, and a lot of it seemed contrived. It had really good episodes, and a lot more really bad episodes. I just feel like the potential of the plot was squandered in its execution.

Onto my next project: Farscape!

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Watchings

 

Dividing Attention

Sorry for the lack of updates. My attention has been extremely divided of late, which makes it hard to get anything of substance done. In addition to that, a new semester at university has just started, so I am still settling into that. But, I think I am finally ready to start getting to work again!

I have also learned a very valuable lesson. The reason that I write is in order to translate ideas, worlds, and characters that float around in my head into something concrete and readable, allowing other people to share them while also codifying them for myself. It helps me to think. The problem with this is that it leads to way too many ideas wanting to be expressed at once, and I want to get them all down before I lose them, but can’t write fast enough to keep up! As a result, I have a large queue of projects in various planning stages, and as the semester started, I was trying to work on all of them. At once.

This resulted in my being overly stressed, as I wanted to get everything done perfectly and immediately. As we all know, of course, you can’t rush perfection (or even achieve it, really). I just couldn’t do everything quickly and the way I wanted it. I was essentially giving myself impossible tasks; as much as I would like to spend almost every hour of the day writing, I can’t, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and all of the other -ally’s. So, dividing my attention made me stressed out, and I can’t write when I’m stressed, which in turn led to me not writing. And you guessed it, this made me even more stressed!

I did a few Tarot readings yesterday to calm me down and help me think about my life, and I am now feeling much better. I finished my short story “Singing in the Rain” – a rather disturbing (in my opinion) horror piece about singing rain. I’d been working on it for a week, unable to get into a good writing mode, but I finally conquered it! I am now moving (back) into a project I’ve been working on for a while: Tal’kan, which I will talk more about in a hopefully soon-to-come post.

So, what did I learn? Focus on one project at a time! Don’t divide your attention overly much.

And, just for fun, here is what I have in progress at the moment:

-Standalone Short Stories First Draft Done: “Glimpsing Yggdrasill,” “Singing in the Rain,” “Probabilities.”

Standalone Short Stories Outlined: “Ziggurats,” “Cabin Boy,” “In Madness, Dying,” “The Woodsman,” “Nightmare Fleet.”

-Anthologies: Editing Dark Aeons, stories editing: “Hell Factory,” “Afflatus Divine,” “Parallax,” “The Parasite,” “Dark Aeons,” “The Horror in the Woods,” and “Station Fourteen.”

-Novels Waiting on Cover Art and Publishing: The Libel of Blood.

-Novels Outlined: A Deadly Dance, Heart of the Supernova, Antony of Alexandria.

-Novels Slightly Written: People of the Storm.

-Novels With Substantive Portions Done: The Divine Madness of Kings, Tal’kan.

For now, I’m focusing on Tal’kan. I will return to The Divine Madness of Kings later this year, hopefully.

That’s all for now!

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Writing

 

The Kraken and Cthulhu?

I know the comparison between the mythical Kraken and the insanity-inducing Cthulhu is an obvious one, but in the course of some casual research on Krakens (yes, when I am procrastinating I read up on my mythical beasts. At least I’ll be prepared when they come for me!), I came across the following poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Of course, being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, the similarities between Tennyson’s portrayal of the Kraken and Cthulhu immediately became apparent. He sleeps beneath the sea, waiting for ages to sleep until the time is right (in Lovecraft’s case, the stars, in Tennyson’s, the heat), and then he will rise up to the surface – and then die? For this, I shall just point you to Lovecraft’s quote from the Necronomicon: “And with strange aeons even death may die.” The poem even managed to get Polyps – though of the flying variety – in there.

Quite the coincidence, don’t you think? Perhaps Lovecraft read this poem, had a nightmare about it, and so Cthulhu was spawned. Or maybe, as a friend of mine suggested, Lovecraft used a time machine.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Philosophical Musings, Readings

 

Neon Genesis Evangelion

I just finished this (anime) show. I wish I could say that my mind was blown, but it really wasn’t. It was a very hyped-up show, and it had so much potential, but in the end, overall, I was disappointed. The premise was very creative, the themes very deep and meaningful, the characters very well-made (Pen-pen is definitely the best), the concept of the Angels, LCL, and the Human Instrumentality very interesting and fascinating, but unfortunately the series fell flat on its face in one crucial aspect: making sense.

The way that the series was presented made it extremely difficult to follow, and I was told that it got a lot better the second time one watched it. That’s all well and good, but generally I like to be able to like and understand a show – at least on some level – the first time I watch it. If you don’t, I don’t think it’s well done. Not having a full understanding is alright, and it’s okay if on subsequent watchings it makes more sense, but you have to start from that baseline. Neon Genesis Evangelion did not have that baseline. It started off confusing, kept being confusing, and never made sense completely; I was forced in the end to look up a lot in order to understand it.

So, I consider this show to be a great concept ruined in the act of storytelling. It just didn’t tell the story well.

But it was definitely worth watching. The animation was spectacular, and the characters were very deep. It also drew extensively on ideas of Kabbalah, and being an occultist/esoteric, it made me happy whenever the Tree of Life was mentioned. The last two episodes – or rather, the “prime” versions of them – were by far my favorite because they actually almost made sense, were deep, and generally more visually stimulating than the rest.

All in all, a decent anime. Wolf’s Rain remains my favorite.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Watchings

 
 
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